Christmas 2009 brought another attempted terrorist attack on an American jetliner. So far, 2010 has brought us no real solutions, but a plethora of rhetoric and name-calling by people who should know better. And flying the friendly skies will mean extra hassle getting past the not-so-friendly (and sometimes not-so-bright) security troops.
The idiot du jour responsible for the latest incident is a 23-year old Nigerian named Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. His preferred method of destruction, as we all know now, was exploding underwear. This fact alone gives one cause to pause and wonder: just why would a young man from a good upbringing somehow decide that a suicide bombing mission originating from his privates was a really good idea?
And how could the authorities, after Umar’s own father had notified them that his son might be a terror risk, allow Umar to board an aircraft after he paid cash for a one-way ticket and had no checked bags?
Abdulmutallab’s name appeared on a terrorist identities database maintained by the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center, according to an unnamed U.S. official. Containing some 550,000 names, the database includes people with known or suspected ties to a terrorist organization. According to government sources, it is not a list that would prohibit a person from boarding a U.S.-bound airplane. Does anyone else wonder why that is?
It has come to light that more than eight years after the 9/11 attacks, our intelligence agencies are still not sharing vital information – information that might have prevented this Nigerian nutjob from boarding his flight. That info-sharing problem was supposed to have been fixed during the tenure of the previous administration; it is, however, a problem that still exists to this day. This little nugget of truth has all but been ignored by the critics of this administration in their haste to blame the president for everything that has ever gone wrong in America. I don’t recall former Vice President Gore blaming George W. Bush for 9/11 or the Shoe Bomber the way that former Vice President “Dick” Cheney has disingenuously railed against Obama over this failed Christmas terror attempt. (One of the criticisms is that the Underwear Bomber will be tried under the American judicial system and won’t be subject to interrogation and military tribunal.
How quickly they forget that the Shoe Bomber, Richard Reid, was tried under the American judicial system and wasn’t subject to interrogation and military tribunal during the Bush administration.)
The Obama administration is now in the process of their evaluation of just what went wrong, and likely will make recommendations soon. Unfortunately, rhetoric will probably prevail over reason, and we’ll all be forced to endure further idiotic procedures and regulations before we’re allowed to board any aircraft. Those high-tech machines that use radio waves to peer under one’s clothing might not see use because of child pornography issues. But it might be all right to give everyone a full crotch pat-down to ensure against future ignitable skivvies. (But how many seniors will be forced to prove that their underwear is Depends and not a bomb? This just gets more depressing.)
At some point, intelligence and reason need to become part of the TSA screening procedures. Instead of randomly selecting senior citizens in wheelchairs or toddlers in strollers for extensive inspection and patting down, perhaps TSA screeners should focus on those travelers who more likely fit the profile of a terrorist, say, someone flying on a one-way international ticket bought with cash who’s checking no baggage (like Undie Umar). Perhaps we should spend more time preventing bad people from boarding our aircraft rather than targeting our shampoos and mouthwash. Maybe – just maybe – we should have trained screeners talk to the people who fit the profile of terrorists and discern if they mean our nation and our people harm. And maybe – just maybe – we should keep all 550,000 people on the list mentioned above off of our aircraft until each one passes a very rigorous and thorough screening. Having a few more US Marshalls on our flights might not be a bad idea either.
Hopefully, we’ll start to be more proactive when it comes to keeping the whackos and terrorists from ever boarding our planes in the first place, instead of reacting like shampoo-fearing perverts who want us all patted down and virtually naked on computer screens. The friendly skies, indeed!